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My Olive Tree – poem by Hanna Issa

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 17.11.2006:

By Hanna Issa

A sacred vow embellished on your veil,

Which lends your gentle branches poise and grace;

Emblem of peace, and charm for restless souls,

Reposeful – soothing is your kind embrace.

Even your respiration smells of oil,

The olive oil that feeds the Sacred flame;

Your light in temple lanterns pure, divine,

Endures – Thine consecration to proclaim.

Thou noble spirit of the ancient heights,

The breath of Jesus in your shade transpires;

Apollo of the ages, firm and stout,

Your vespers Allah from His throne inspires.

High on that lovely Hill top that commands,

The sun-rise and the sun-set far beyond;

The crest of joy, the fusion of delight,

To thee my heart for ever shall respond.

Ramallah – «Hill of God» thy name was given,

Your crown, the Tireh Sector shall adorn;

My olive tree, a jewel on your brow,

Fed by the angels, was an angel born.

So huge, by right the Roman tree T’s called,

As old as time, by Roman fingers pruned,

My tree still stands unravished, undefiled,

Immune to age, so olive trees are tuned.

My child Ghassan, so lively and enthused,

Your undulating branches scan with zeal;

On field excursions he will surely mark,

A nest some bird attempted to conceal.

To speak of birds and nests and olive trees,

Ghassan’s adventures with me on the trail,

Imbues the soul with perfect loveliness,

Upright, my tree and child may never fail.

Hanna Issa Khalaf (1905-1963) was born in Ramallah and graduated from the University of Michigan in 1936 with BA degrees in art and law. In addition to being an activist in the Palestinian resistance movement, he was a member of Jordan’s Parliament as well as Minister of Justice. This fascinating poem, “My Olive Tree,” was written as he hiked in mountain olive groves in Ramallah with his youngest son, Ghassan. The poem was submitted by his grandson, Fares N. Azar.

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